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Kings vs. Nuggets Preview: Protect The Paint

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Another night in the NBA, another huge challenge for the Sacramento Kings.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off the heels of back-to-back heartbreaking losses against the Lakers and Trail Blazers, the Kings will attempt to right the ship on Thursday night against another formidable opponent. The Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets are in Sacramento this evening, and if the Kings can’t figure out how to protect the paint, it could get ugly.

Who, What, Where, When:

Who: Sacramento Kings vs. Denver Nuggets

Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA

When: 7:00 PM PST, 10:00 PM ET

TV: NBCSCA

Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM

Can The Kings Contain Nikola Jokic?

In Tuesday nights 113-108 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, pretty-decent-center Jusuf Nurkić dropped an insane 5x5 stat line that included 24 points and 23 rebounds against the Kings’ poor interior defense, and it doesn’t get any easier for the frontcourt tonight.

With how well the Nuggets are playing this season, Nikola Jokic is somewhere in the MVP conversation. He might not be at the top of the list, but he’s in there, and he’s a big-time monster the Kings will have to deal with tonight.

In their first meeting this season, the Nuggets defeated the Kings 126-112, but don’t let the final score fool you. This one was a blowout. The Nuggets only needed Jokic for 23 minutes and he still dropped 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists on the Kings before resting most of the second half. It was ugly.

If the Kings are going to stop Jokic, or at least prevent him from taking over, it has to be a group effort. Whatever size and strength advantage Jokic has over the Kings’ slight frontcourt has to be countered with the speed advantage they have on the other end. Willie Cauley-Stein needs to run the floor and try to match Jokic’s production with transition opportunities.

Jamal Murray vs. The Kings Guards

Jamal Murray is having a wonderful year for the Nuggets, and he’s got a lot of nasty in his game. Murray outproduced both De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield in their first matchup, and knowing how competitive both Fox and Hield can be, I’ll be interested to see how they respond tonight. Murray has a knack for getting under his opponents skin, and with how Fox has battled other in-your-face guards this season, this could be a lot of fun if the Kings can keep it close enough to matter.

Battle of the Boards

You could probably file this under the Nikola Jokic problem above, but the Kings have got to put an extra emphasis on defensive rebounding tonight. The Nuggets are 1st in the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage, and the Kings are 27th in the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage.

The Kings have been a poor rebounding team all season, and tonight, they face what might be the best offensive rebounding team in the NBA. The Kings were out-rebounded 49-39 the last time these two teams met. They just have to do a better job on the glass. It’s a must.

Welcome Back

Of course, Michael Malone returns to Sacramento once again as the head coach of the Denver Nuggets. I have nothing spectacular to say here other than Michael Malone is an excellent coach and he got a raw deal here.

Isaiah Thomas also returns to Sacramento as a member of the Denver Nuggets, but he’s still out recovering from offseason hip surgery. Get well soon, IT.